Seeing love

The minute I start thinking about how much work I’m getting done, whether I’m accomplishing enough in my business, if I’m on target to complete my goals for the month or year, or how clean the house is, I’ve lost the ability to exist in the present moment with my child. Worry robs me of enjoying life with Maggie. You’d think that acknowledging that would be enough to permanently rid me of obsessing over work, future plans, past failures, or to-do lists. But no. I still find myself wide-eyed with locked jaw, focused on matters which I know will not matter one single bit in 10 years… maybe not even in one year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we inch closer to the day she starts preschool—she’ll only go three mornings a week, so it’s not like she’s walking out the door and never looking back, but it still feels big to me—I am reminded that we’re turning a significant corner as a family. Every time she asks me to go sit on the porch with her in the evening to watch her turtle, a little box turtle my husband found for her, which she named, “Said,” I don’t want to say no. But I hesitate, knowing I have a client waiting for a resume. I hesitate because a friend is coming to stay with us for the weekend, and the house is far from clean or even sanitary right now. But I try to leave my worries behind and play anyway because I know I don’t say yes often enough.

There are too many times I’ve hesitated in the past or said no. And I have carried regrets for all of those times over the past few years. I refuse to carry regrets with me related to saying no to my daughter and her requests for my time, love, and attention. Will I say no to her when she asks for material possessions, demands freedom to explore unsafe areas of the world, and permission to push boundaries which are in place to protect her? Absolutely—I will always say no if it’s in her best interest. But I will say yes, yes, yes if she’s begging for more of my love.

I once heard a speaker say, “Whatever the question, love is the answer.”

The other night I was feeling pushed to my limits with Maggie. She had a hard day that day, and I’d had one, too, dealing with repeated frustration with her demands and defiance. I took a breather and stepped out of the bathroom while she finished her bath. I glanced at the wall and saw an old portrait my dad gave me years ago hanging on the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScripted on the portrait were the words, “I asked Jesus, ‘How much do You love me?’ And Jesus said, ‘This much.’ And He spread His arms and died for me.”

I took a deep breath and went back into the bathroom. Maggie splashed around in the water with her bath crayons happily and asked if I wanted to see the pictures she’d drawn of imaginary sea dragons, birds with their mothers, and Mama, Maggie, and Daddy. Of course I did.

I needed to see that portrait. I needed a reminder of just how much God loves me and my little Maggie, and to be reminded that there’s nothing I can do to mess that up. I needed to be reminded that there’s nothing Maggie can do to ruin my love for her and that’s all she needs to hear and see from me every day is a reminder of that Great Love, the kind of Love that holds out its arms all day long for us.

Worth the price

Some of you may recall my blog post about selecting a “word of the year” in lieu of conjuring up a New Year’s resolution or specific goal for 2011. I chose freedom.

Freedom is something I’ve struggled with my whole life–both allowing the freedom of others and of myself, too. Through a combination of circumstances, traumatic experiences, and lessons learned by observation, I unfortunately came to the conclusion that gaining control was the best possible choice. It kept me in check. It kept me safe. It kept me comfortable. At the least, it gave me the illusion of these things, and that worked for me for a while.

I’ll admit it–I’m a recovering control freak. Tried to force people to change? Check. Attempted to make people love me? Check. Forced myself to hide feelings (even from myself) in order to appear “just fine?” Check. Worked long hours and poured myself into jobs in order to perfectly execute my plans for success? Check. Beat myself up for mistakes and failures rather than focusing on the present moment (something I have the power to change, versus the past)? Check.

When it comes to control, I’ve been there, done it. All of it. And slowly but surely, I am letting go and letting God and realizing that when I do, I feel more free than before.

This year, I read a book called “Boundaries in Marriage” by Cloud and Townsend. I decided that if I want a healthy relationship, I needed to analyze my part in my past fumbles and focus on self-growth to prevent similar slips. The book reiterated things I’d already dealt with emotionally and spiritually–it didn’t really cover much new ground because I have forced myself to look in the mirror over the past four years and take a good hard look at Bethany, for better or worse. I’ve worked through the worse and moved toward the better slowly but surely.

As a former control freak, though, I really spent some time considering the concept set forth in the book regarding the collaboration of love, freedom, and responsibility.

“Finally, it is all about love. As Jesus has told us, the two greatest commandments hang on the ultimate reality of Love. And this is the biggest misunderstanding that we find when talking about Boundaries. Many people think that boundaries are about selfishness and are at their root, self-serving. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Boundaries are about freedom, and freedom is always meant to have as its ultimate fruit, love. As Paul says, and we would echo to anyone who uses boundaries in a self-serving way, You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:13,14)   Boundaries are about God’s restoring freedom to you and me so that we could take control of our lives to be able to love Him and others. Ultimately, that is the fruit of boundaries, to love our of freedom, and with purpose.” –Cloud and Townsend,  http://www.cloudtownsend.com/library/articles/7articles6.php.

Being in a relationship with someone I trust, and who trusts me, has helped me learn to let go of my need for control. I don’t need to control him because he is responsible and controls himself, and I control myself. We are both responsible to God, and to each other, and because we behave responsibly and respect each other’s boundaries, we give each other the freedom to live life fully, completely, and joyfully. And feeling free causes us to feel more in love with each other every day. So we, in turn, continue acting responsibly in our relationship because of our love for each other.

It’s a beautiful cycle, and it’s set me free. I’ve heard it said that freedom’s never really free–someone pays the price. If I hadn’t sacrificed tears, prayers, and hard work, I’d be right where I used to be–in a cramped cage, feeling (but not being) very safe and in control. If I hadn’t been in that cage for so long, I might not appreciate the feeling of flying.